Ben Watt Presents...Buzzin’ Fly Volume 3
t’s easy to look at Ben Watt’s production style on Everything But the Girl’s Temperamental or Walking Wounded and declare them one-offs in light of their back catalogue of acoustic pop. Yet a single look at Watt’s Buzzin’ Fly label—which has been putting out laudable house and dance music in addition to drum ‘n’ bass and indie—is enough to rebuke that claim. Since 2002, Watt has helmed the imprint and put out only a few releases, but has staged a series of successful live shows and DJ sets. Thus, these Buzzin’ Fly compilations serve two purposes: to exhibit the immense talent on his label and to offer a chance for fans to gain a taste of the Watt live experience. On this third compilation, Watt does both once again.
The first Buzzin’ Fly was a subtle affair and a careless ear wouldn’t have detected anything but slightly different products from the same 808 machines. But the addition of Terrence Trent D’Arby on “A Stronger Man” and the remix of Low’s “Tonight” presented unexpected (but welcomed) breaks from the constant meter and melody by using voices backed by strong personalities. The second Buzzin’ Fly was even subtler but still flexed its motley muscles by adding a touch of electro. While not as acute of a change compared to the first volume, it was a more effective one because it ran throughout the compilation.
Volume 3 lies somewhere between the first two mixes. After a brief intro, “Old Soul” properly begins the compilation. Backed mostly by subtle, pitch shifting bells, Baby Blak utters lines with an unvarnished cool, his cadence turning a possibly prosaic performance into street poetry. From there Watt delves further into house as “Gazebo” feeds off Blak’s echoes and steadily increases the weight and speed. The Manoo and Francois A mix of “Clear Sky” gets even more aggressive, and soon enough, the niceness of “Old Soul” seems lost in the shuffle as “Lose Control” takes over. In other words, this is where the M.O. of Buzzin’ Fly Volume 1 ends. Like Terrence Trent D’Arby’s performance on the first comp, Baby Blak offers an emotional frame, but his placement in the beginning rather than the middle or end means that it lingers longer.
The Timewriter remix of “I Love Deep” cuts the monotonous route the songs could have taken by introducing breakbeats, while “San Fernando Road” is even more scaled back. Beginning with “Metamotional,” Watt starts to stir the pot by veering even further towards the progressive vein by using unorthodox samples like cowbells and hi-hats on “Insomnia.” From here on in Watt follows the template Buzzin’ Fly Volume 2 by shifting influences and doing so more aggressively. “Square Back,” the two mixes of “So Far Back,” and even “One Week in Cuba” approach shades of microhouse and create a surprisingly ambient outro sequence.
I will admit that listening to Watt’s compilations felt a little strange since he practically locked himself into a single genre, but it’s obviously still that Ben Watt from EBTG. His Buzzin’ Fly series won’t raise any eyebrows elicit any gasps, but a good mix doesn’t necessarily have to. Instead, we get what any good mix should give us: a starting point to seek out other artists and anticipation for the next volume in the series.
Reviewed by: Ayo Jegede
Reviewed on: 2006-07-07